Quick Take: Despite growth, revenues still well below pre-downturn levels

by | November 16th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (3)

For the eighteenth consecutive month since May 2010, General Revenue (GR) collections grew compared to the prior year. October GR was $24.3 million, or 6.3 percent, above collections in October 2010. All major taxes brought in more revenue than one year ago.

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In The Know: Oil boom boosts revenue, but budget will stay flat

by | November 16th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that increased oil production is giving a boost to state revenues, but state leaders say the overall budget is expected to remain flat, which matches OK Policy’s assessment. The legislative panel studying health care reform adjourned without making any decisions about how to establish an insurance exchange. Sen. Tom Coburn urged the committee leaders to move forward with a state-based exchange, but it may already be too late.

A federal judge ruled that a class-action lawsuit over abuses in Oklahoma’s child welfare system can proceed. A legislative panel is considering a fee on businesses to cover a portion of the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s costs for collecting sales taxes from them. The entire leadership of the Tulsa Public Schools athletics department was placed on disciplinary suspension for accessing a secretary’s personal e-mail.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren asked campus budget managers to anticipate 2 to 5 percent in potential cuts. The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-2 to add protections for sexual orientation to the city’s employment nondiscrimination policy. The OU Staff Senate will explore how the university can extend Family Medical Leave Act benefits to same-sex couples.

The OK Policy Blog features an abridged transcript of Rep. David Dank’s comments on principles for tax credit reform. Also on the OK Policy Blog is a column presenting our own recommendations on tax breaks that was previously featured on Oklahoma Watch. The Number of the Day is the percentage of 8th grade students in Oklahoma with computer access in their classrooms. In today’s Policy Note, a new study shows the portion of American families living in middle-income neighborhoods has declined significantly since 1970, as a growing share of families live in neighborhoods that are mostly low-income or mostly affluent. Over the last decade, Oklahoma City experienced one of the nation’s biggest increases in income segregation.

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Rep. David Dank: On tax credits, the time for change is now

by | November 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (5)

Rep. David Dank is co-chair of the Tax Credit Task Force. This is his opening statement to the Task Force’s meeting of November 9th. It is reprinted with permission and has been edited for length as indicated by [...] The full unabridged statement can be seen here. A column presenting OK Policy’s recommendations for tax reform that previously appeared on Oklahoma Watch can be seen here.

[…] The very first question we need to ask today is who we are representing here []

I think the only valid answer is, The Taxpayers.

Not the special interests who have benefited from many of these tax credits… and certainly not the few who have manipulated this system for personal gain.

I think we should also make a second thing clear today [] We are not against business. We don’t oppose growth. We believe that government policy can help create jobs. We don’t think all credits or incentives are bad.

What I think most of us believe after all we have heard here is that far too many tax credits and other incentives enacted in the past were created for the wrong reasons, and in the wrong way.

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Keeping tabs on tax breaks

by | November 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (4)

This post originally appeared on Oklahoma Watch as part of their Oklahoma Voices series. The legislative task force that has been studying tax breaks will vote on final recommendations at its November 30 meeting. Also appearing today on our blog is a statement by tax force co-chair Rep. David Dank.

The Oklahoma tax code contains hundreds of credits, deductions, and other special breaks that cost the state billions of dollars each year. In the last few months, a legislative task force has uncovered numerous tax credits and deductions that lack public transparency, adequate monitoring, or any clear proof that Oklahoma was getting its money’s worth.

For political reasons, it is sometimes easier for lawmakers to change the tax code rather than fund a state program to do the job directly. Yet monkeying with the tax code is often a less efficient way to achieve a goal. For example, in 2007 Sen. Mike Mazzei proposed a tax credit that would reimburse 20 percent of the cost of health club memberships. The measure, which did not pass, was intended to combat obesity. Yet there was no way to ensure that the credit was not wasted on those who would have joined a health club without it. If we instead invested those funds in public health programs to promote physical fitness, we could ensure that the money is spent on those who need it.

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In The Know: Investigation reveals failure to protect nursing home residents

by | November 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (1)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that a NewsOn6 investigation found that we are failing to prevent serious abuse of nursing home residents. Senator Coburn released a report finding that subsidies and tax breaks for millionaires cost the U.S. government an average of $30 billion a year. The state Supreme Court received numerous statements from law enforcement and business opposing removal of identifying information from court records.

The OK Policy Blog shares excerpts from a speech by Angela Glover Blackwell on why reducing inequality is the best strategy for growth. DHS Commissioner Wes Lane spoke with NewsOn6 about the committee he is putting together to investigate child deaths. Sen. Andrew Rice and Rep. Mike Reynolds shared positive assessments of how the tax credit task force has been conducted.

The Tulsa World writes that it is time to fix the unfairness of allowing online retailers to avoid collecting sales tax. Okie Funk warns Oklahomans not to forget that reducing the unfunded liability of the state pension programs was the result of reducing benefits of current and future retirees.

The Number of the Day is the median monthly gross rent -rent plus utilities- for renters in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, North Dakota could become the first state in the nation to implement an insurance exchange under the new health care reform law.

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Angela Glover Blackwell: 'Equity is the superior growth model'

This blog post was excerpted from remarks by Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink, during the opening session of PolicyLink’s 2011 Equity Summit in Detroit, Michigan.  The speech presented a new framework for creating an equitable economy.  Click here for a new report from PolicyLink looking at how demographic changes and deepening inequality demand an urgent re-imagining of our economy.

This is a critical moment.  The economy is in crisis.  The middle class is shrinking.  Inequality has come front and center in our conversation in America and we have rapidly changing demographics in which the racial and ethnic composition of the country is changing fast.  This economic crisis really represents a failed growth model, one that was based on a housing bubble; one that was allowed to present itself as opportunity when it was really only credit-fueled consumption that was improving the lifestyles of people [..]

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In The Know: 40 percent of OKC high school seniors have not passed test required for graduation

by | November 14th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that 16 percent of Oklahoma high school students have yet to pass a state exam needed to graduate in May. In the Oklahoma City school district, 40 percent have not passed the exam, and in Tulsa Public Schools, 33 percent have not passed. The Los Angeles Times reports on tribes and small-town residents in Southeast Oklahoma worried that Oklahoma City and Texas will drain their water supplies. A Broken Arrow man is organizing a petition to put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot declaring that life begins at fertilization, which would make some forms of birth control illegal in addition to outlawing all abortions. A similar measure was defeated in Mississippi last week.

A for-profit company that provides halfway houses for state inmates met with House Speaker Kris Steele, staffers for Gov. Fallin, Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, and Department of Corrections officials to raise concerns that putting more offenders on GPS monitors would hurt their business. Oklahoma Correctional Industries, which makes a wide range of products using inmate labor, makes about $14 million in annual revenues and is expecting growth this year. The chairman of the Delaware County Democratic Party said Friday that he favors raising sales taxes to help pay off a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over county jail inmates who were sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers.

At the urging of the Oklahoma business community, the state’s Congressional delegation is considering a move to require Internet retailers to collect sales tax. DHS is planning to reduce the number of hours a family member can be compensated for care. Scientists are investigating whether oil and natural gas drilling is linked to Oklahoma’s recent earthquakes, and the National Academy of Sciences will issue a report next spring. A report by the state Department of Commerce finds that Oklahoma’s military installations contribute $9.6 billion to state GDP and pay about 5 percent of all wages in Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is how many months since the Great Recession began that Oklahoma has experienced job losses. In today’s Policy Note, the National Alliance on Mental Illness documents deep cuts in most states to spending on services for those living with serious mental illness.

continue reading In The Know: 40 percent of OKC high school seniors have not passed test required for graduation

The Weekly Wonk – November 11, 2011

by | November 11th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy presented three sensible reforms that would help the state make better tax and budgeting decisions. A guest post from OETA Board Chair James Utterback explained why public television is vital for Oklahoma.

Also this week, we released a new issue brief and a related blog post that makes the case for preserving the state’s income tax. Stateline spoke to OK Policy Director David Blatt for a story on the difficulties faced by states that attempt to eliminate the income tax. See more issue briefs, fact sheets, blog posts, and media coverage related to the tax debate on our tax reform information page.

Yesterday we shared a video from Oklahoma Watch about overcrowding and rising costs in Oklahoma prisons.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk – November 11, 2011

In The Know: Economists at Chamber forum say don't end the income tax

by | November 11th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that all three economists speaking at a forum hosted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce cast doubt on the idea that Oklahoma should cut the income tax. State Impact Oklahoma summarizes nine recommendations likely to come out of the tax credit task force. OK Policy previously made recommendations for tax incentive reform in a column for Oklahoma Watch. The OK Policy Blog features a video from Oklahoma Watch on overcrowding in Oklahoma prisons.

Rep. Jason Murphey is pushing to end the legislature’s exemption from the Open Meetings Act. State employees in agencies where information technology services have been consolidated will be blocked from visiting or receiving e-mail from unapproved websites. El Reno officials will reassess how to go forward after a major school bond proposal got a majority but not the 60 percent required to pass.

The director of a drug counseling organization said Oklahoma’s methadone clinics are being underused because of “bad press” and a lack of education about methadone. The Oklahoma Secretary of Veteran Affairs Rita Aragon writes about the need to open schools as community centers after hours to improve Oklahomans’ health. NewsOK writes that improving the child welfare system is the most important issue facing Oklahoma.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahoma small businesses owned by veterans. In today’s Policy Note, a report from the American Immigration Council answers some basic questions about the role of immigration in today’s economy.

continue reading In The Know: Economists at Chamber forum say don't end the income tax

Watch This: Packed Oklahoma prisons, rising costs

by | November 10th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Watch This | Comments (3)

Oklahoma Watch has an excellent series on their Youtube channel examining incarceration in Oklahoma, with a particular emphasis on female incarceration.  The videos explore themes like overcrowding, substance abuse and domestic violence, and reentry after incarceration.  Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit investigative reporting team and we’re impressed with their thorough and thoughtful approach to covering corrections.  Incarcerations’ impact on the state budget is not a small one; 7.1 percent of appropriations go to the Department of Corrections each year.

Visit the Oklahoma Watch Youtube channel for more videos like this.

View other clips from OKPolicy’s “Watch This’ video series:

Creativity & Learning

The Great Recession

Making Ends Meet: The Medicare Generation

A tale of two (Oklahoma) cities